Our brains need a certain amount of fat to function well. Fats provide energy, help the body absorb essential vitamins, and protect nerve cells and connections. The body doesn’t produce all of the fatty acids it needs, however, so we have to add those to our diet. But there are good and bad fats, and too much of the wrong kind throws a monkey wrench into the works.

Omega-3s are among the good fats. Research shows that they fight inflammation and support the structure of brain cells. A recent report in the journal Neurology by Gene Bowman’s team at Oregon Health & Science University found that study participants who had high blood levels of healthy fats, including omega-3s and a variety of vitamins including B, C, D, and E, and had low levels of trans fats had less brain shrinkage and scored better on cognitive tests than those who ate less nutritious diets.

Two popular solutions are to add flaxseed to your cereal and smoothies and chia seeds to stir fries and salads. Both are stuffed with omega-3s (and have little taste). According to the Cleveland Clinic, 1 to 2 tablespoons is a healthy daily dose.

You can easily incorporate a wide variety of healthy foods into your diet that provide these essential fats and a lot more. One of the best dietary moves you can make is to increase your consumption of seafood. The best dietary sources are oily, cold-water fish. Opt for a 4-ounce serving of salmon, Atlantic mackerel, sardines, or herring, 2 or 3 times a week. Those who don’t eat fish should ask their health care provider about whether to take fish-oil supplements, because fish oil also acts as a blood thinner.

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